A letter from China

Audrey, Diego, Gina
Audrey Qin from China, Big Fag Press boss Diego Bonetto, and Adelaide comic book artist Gina Chadderton at the Big Fag Press, mid-2016.

During 2016, we had the pleasure of welcoming Audrey Qin from China to work with us on the project of cataloguing and archiving John Demos’ huge body of work. Audrey was an exchange student at Sydney College of the Arts, and we loved working with her. Upon her return to China, Audrey sent us a letter about her experiences with Big Fag, which we reprint below.

Thanks so much Audrey, please come back and join us again soon!

– the Big Fag Press team.

– – –

Dear Big Fag Press,

Thank you very much for the time we spent together. For me, a short-term exchange student, it was such a blessing to join this passionate big family and get a fantastic insight about some interesting issues in the Australian art scene. With approximately zero pre-experience in the art industry, I joined the team as a volunteer at the end of the June 2016 and left with fruity art world experience.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the late artist John Demos’ art work almost accidentally, when I enquired about those storage boxes laying out in our ‘warehouse’. From then on, I started to get to know this extremely talented and unique artist — John Demos.

Between June and October of 2016, I devoted myself to take care of the inventory of John’s legacy. It was such a privilege to go through the whole process of making the inventory. My instructor Diego and I decided to take pictures of every valuable item of John’s old art works and belongings and record them using Google spreadsheets. It was like an amazing treasure hunt, when we actually took everything out and examined them in detail. Eye catching images kept popping out with forms I’ve never perceived before. However when things came to which item to keep and which to cast off, no one in the team seemed to feel authority enough to make the call.

Although with a natural sense of art, John was caught up by schizophrenia for most of his life. He creates art work such as repeatedly well organised chalk letters on blackboard, repeated words on giant pieces of paper, colourful or pure black ink strokes on paper, etc. Some of them are already covered by dust yet with a sense of decay which can be John’s personal touch and the idea that he wanted his works to convey at the first place.

In my personal opinion, there are two kinds of artist in the modern world — one is making art only for themselves while another is doing things mainly for the mass public. It’s about the personal drive of making art which is divided into an intrinsic drive and an extrinsic drive. If I put my feet in their shoes, as an intrinsic driven artist, it doesn’t matter if my art work can be appreciated by other people because it is the process of making art what matters to me; however, to be an extrinsic driven artist, presenting the art works is crucial, for audiences are the major group to communicate with. Thus, in John Demos’ case, making art released the nerves and expressed his feelings of the world. Perhaps John never wanted these works we uncovered to be exhibited. But once an artist wants to acknowledge their talent or effort, they need find a way to approach the audience. Extrinsic artists want to make their works ‘popular’ in an exclusive way. It comes back to my personal interest — how to bring traditional culture back to the stage without turning it into a soulless commercial product or compressing it into souvenirs.

I wanted to help out at Big Fag Press in the very beginning because of the bursting passion of art within the group members. The art industry is a tough world to live in. I feel Big Fag Press is somewhere between an art club and a not-for-profit business. During my internship timeframe, I had the privilege to witness its AGM (Annual General Meeting) and I was also allowed to bring two of my friends along. It was a mind-blowing experience for me with an executive board formed by people from all kinds of different job background. The team roles are assigned by the whole group all together. Although most of them in the board have another job, being artists is their common identity and the definition of passion. It is such a blessing to be in part of the amazing team.

Big thanks to Big Fag Press! I will catch up with the work on John’s project after I go back to China. Please keep me posted about your progress as well.

Best regards,
Audrey Qin

audrey qin with john demos art shirt
Audrey Qin with a John Demos art shirt at Big Fag Press